The past legislative session in Texas focused on key conservative priorities, from restricting abortion to addressing transgender rights. The Lone Star State is now focused on a voting bill that would tighten election laws, after missing an opportunity to get it passed late last month. Political reporter Daniel Bush joins Judy Woodruff from Austin with more.
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The past legislative session in Texas focused on key conservative priorities, from restricting abortion to addressing transgender rights.
The Lone Star State is now focused on a voting bill that would tighten election laws, after missing an opportunity to get it passed late last month.
We check in now with our political reporter, Dan Bush. He is in Austin.
Dan Bush, hello there.
So, Texas has just ended its regular legislative session. And, as we have said, they have looked at a number of conservative priorities. Tell us what is getting the most attention.
Well, Judy, the big issue was voting rights.
Republicans have legislation that would do a number of things. It would limit drop boxes for ballots. It would limit vote by mail. It would also do — allow partisan poll watchers to monitor polling places around the state. In addition, it would restrict voting for some hours on the weekend.
Now, Republicans argue that all of these measures are necessary coming after the last election in order to increase transparency, to reduce voter fraud. Democrats, however, they argue that this is essentially voter suppression.
Let's hear from one state senator now.
Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-TX:
Well, it's it's Jim Crow 2.0. I mean, I can't say it any plainer than that.
It's voter suppression, and it's targeting Harris County right here where we are, I think because we broke a lot of records, I mean, tremendous turnout; 1.68 million people voted in Harris County, largest voting turnout. And I think that is what has concerned people on the other side of the aisle.
That was a Democrat back in Houston, Judy.
And it is important to note that this legislation has not yet passed, but several lawmakers told me that they expect Governor Abbott, a Republican, to convene a special session a little later this summer, where these measures are going to become law.
And so, Dan, tell us what more the legislature has been focused on, and how does it fit in with the national picture?
So, the legislature got very busy the last couple of months here at the state Capitol right behind me in Austin, a bunch of issues that came to the fore, one was related to gun ownership.
The state passed a law allowing Texans to carry handguns without a permit, so loosening restrictions on gun ownership. Another had to do with abortion. The state passed a fetal heartbeat law, one of the most restrictive in the country, which would make abortion, which now has made abortion illegal in the state of Texas six weeks into pregnancy, even in the case of rape and incest.
And when you pull back and look at the national picture, what you see here is Texas joining a number of states, Georgia, Arizona, others, where Republican-controlled state legislatures are doing everything they can to enact a conservative agenda, at a time when, in Washington, D.C., Democrats are in charge.
They are trying to do, frankly, quite the opposite. Democrats are trying to pass legislation right now in the Congress to, for example, strengthen voting rights.
But here at the state level, Judy, Texas and other legislatures around the country are moving forward with these conservative items.
Right. So important for us to keep an eye on what is happening in these state legislatures, where so much of the action has now moved.
Dan Bush reporting for us from Austin.
Dan, thank you.